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Eberly College of Science

Penn State Forensic Science

About Us

Penn State Forensic Science offers students advanced, hands-on learning in crime laboratory methodologies and crime scene investigation techniques. State-of-the-art crime laboratories and crime scene training facilities are used to teach students the practices or modern forensics. 

We offer both a BS in Forensic Science and an MPS in Forensic Science. Students can attempt to earn both degrees in five-years but they must do so through the Schreyer's Honors College IUG program. Students who are not in the Schreyer's Honors program are not able to earn the masters in addition to the bachelors degree. See the Schreyer's website for more information and admission qualifications.

The BS in Forensic Science degree program is a laboratory-intensive, science-based curriculum. BS students should expect to spend their first two years at Penn State taking courses that provide a firm foundation in several scientific disciplines such as Math, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Statistics in addition to two Forensic courses and general education requirements. We participate in the 2+2 program; students should be able to complete their first two years at any campus before transitioning to University Park to complete their degree. Third and fourth year students will take eight upper-division Forensic courses, supporting courses in other science disciplines such as Chemistry and Biochemistry, two elective courses, and any remaining general education requirements. The third and fourth year courses are largely dictated by which academic subplan or option a student chooses to pursue: Forensic Molecular Biology or Forensic Chemistry.

The MPS in Forensic Science degree program is a laboratory-intensive, science-based curriculum. The degree program is two years and requires students to complete a research project, paper, and presentation of their research within that time in addition to their coursework; there is, however, no thesis required. Students who are good candidates for the MPS program should have a degree in a natural science, such as Chemistry, Biology, Forensic Science, etc. Students should expect their first year to be an intensive introduction to a variety of topics and disciplines in criminalistics and their second year to focus more on their chosen emphasis of either Forensic Molecular Biology or Forensic Chemistry. 

A Hands-On Curriculum 

Penn State Forensic Science offers an immersive, hands-on experience for both graduate and undergraduate students. Laboratory course work is conducted by students, often in the form of mock cases, to teach instruments and techniques used in modern crime labs, as well as forensic documentation. Research conducted by both grads and undergrads takes advantage of the wide array of instruments, techniques, and resources available to our students.

Forensic Biology

Students learn to process biological evidence samples such as hair, blood, semen, saliva, urine, etc.

Hands-on skills learned include microscopy, pipetting, slide preparations, staining, presumptive and confirmatory color tests, DNA extraction and amplification.

Trace and Impression Evidence

Students learn to process fingerprint and shoeprint impressions, toolmarks and firearms impressions, as well as trace evidence such as glass, soil, minerals, hair, fibers, and gunshot residue.

Hands-on skills learned include stereo light microscopy, polarized light microscopy, hair/fiber and bullet/cartridge case comparison microscopy, spot tests and microchemistry, and automated gunshot residue (GSR) analysis.

Crime Scene Investigation

Students learn to process crime scenes and properly collect evidence including fingerprints, shoeprints, blood, trace, firearms, and more.

Hands-on skills learned include crime scene management; DSLR photography; use of alternative light sources; finding, enhancing, and collecting impressions; bloodstain pattern analysis; and firearms trajectory and gunshot residue analysis. Coursework for the CSI lab includes multiple mock crime scenes in our Crime Scene Cottage facilities, we well as other campus locations.

Forensic Chemistry

Students learn to process paint, fibers, drugs of abuse and alcohol, explosives and smokeless powders, and more.

Hands-on skills learned include High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (LC/MS), Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS), Attenuated Total Reflectance/Infrared Spectroscopy (ATR/IR), Solid-phase microextraction (SPME), benchtop and micro-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM).

Forensic Molecular Biology/DNA

Students learn to process DNA evidence through DNA extraction, quantification, amplification, analysis, and interpretation of single source, mixed, and Y-chromosome samples

Hands-on skills learned include DNA extraction techniques, real-time qPCR using the thermal cycler, STR analysis using capillary electrophoresis (CE), traditional Sanger and massive parallel sequencing (MPS), and DNA mixture interpretation software and statistical analysis. 

photos of students in forensic science labs






FEPAC Accreditation

Both our graduate and undergraduate degrees are accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). The mission of the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) is to maintain and to enhance the quality of forensic science education through a formal evaluation and recognition of college-level academic programs. The primary function of the Commission is to develop and to maintain standards and to administer an accreditation program that recognizes and distinguishes high quality undergraduate and graduate forensic science programs.

FEPAC promotes academic quality through formal accreditation of forensic science programs. All programs that FEPAC accredits are located within institutions that are accredited by a regional accreditation organization. The FEPAC accreditation process and policies employ rigorous, consensus standards that assure and advance academic quality at accredited institutions. (source:

Our History

The Penn State Forensic Science Program was founded in 2005 by Dr. Robert Shaler, a 2012 recipient of Penn State Eberly College's Outstanding Science Alumni Award. We graduated our first student in May 2007 with their BS in Forensic Science degree; this year, over 40 students earned their BS in Forensic Science and another 8 earned their MPS in Forensic Science. We have grown quite a bit over the last 19 years! In total, our program has awarded 499 BS in Forensic Science degrees and 115 MPS in Forensic Science degrees from students from across PA, the US, and the world. 

Program Enrollment  

(Updated June 2024)

Undergraduate Forensic Science Majors

166 students

Chemistry track

84 students

Molecular Biology track

82 students

Graduate Forensic Science Students

12 students

First years

5 students

Second years

7 students

Graduating Class Sizes

(updated June 2024)